The Kent House, 321 Maple Street, Smallville, 10:49 P.M.:
Jonathan Kent had just readied himself for bed and was preparing to turn in for the night when he was startled by noises coming from the living room of his house. Pulling on his glasses, he glanced over at the small alarm clock on the night stand. It’s almost eleven o’clock, he thought as he put on his robe and slippers. Martha picked her head up from her pillow as he stepped toward the door, but he motioned for her to go back to sleep with his hand. He wasn’t concerned, as it was probably their son Clark. Clark usually stayed up pretty late, either reading or tinkering in his basement laboratory, since, as Superboy, he didn’t need much in the way of sleep. Still, Jonathan would be remiss in his duty as a father and the head of the household if he didn’t at least go and check.
As he padded down the stairs, the noises became more distinct, and Jonathan could discern that they were coming from the television set in the living room. Obviously, he thought, Clark can’t sleep. Stepping off the staircase and over toward the doorway that led into the family room, Jonathan came upon a scene like no other — the TV set was tuned to the Late Show on Channel 9, which was airing The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Clark, half-dressed in his Superboy costume, was sitting in Jonathan’s easy chair reading.
“You OK, son?”
Clark Kent didn’t even turn his head as he responded to his father. “Yeah, Pa. I just couldn’t sleep, so I came down and turned the TV on and started reading just to try and distract myself. I hope I didn’t disturb you and Ma.”
Jonathan folded his arms across his chest. “Now, son, I don’t mind you watching TV late at night, or even reading, but could you at least choose one or the other… especially this late at night?” Jonathan said, a thin smile evidenced on his face.
Clark turned his head to face his father and chuckled. “Sorry, Pa.” The young man stood up, walked over to the TV set, and, after switching the set off, returned to his seat in the big easy chair.
“Something’s on your mind, son. I can always tell when you’re upset about something. You want to talk about it?”
“Can’t hide much from you, can I?”
“Not likely, son. Let’s have one of our patented father-son chats,” Jonathan said as he stepped into the living room and took a seat on the couch across from the chair his son was seated in. Jonathan looked his son in the eyes, giving him a calm, understanding look that instantly put his son completely at ease.
Clark, still seated, took several deep breaths, exhaled very slowly after each one, and after a few seconds of silence between father and son, he began to speak. “You know that I’ve been seeing Lisa Davis these past couple of months. I really like her, Pa… I mean, a lot. A few weeks back, we had an argument because I was constantly running off. She thought it was because I was trying to avoid her or something, but you and I both know that it was actually because I was flying off to handle emergencies as Superboy. She and I eventually patched things up, but it got me thinking that eventually I’m not going to be able to hide my double life from her. I don’t want to keep lying to her. I want to tell her the truth, Pa, about how Superboy and I are the same person, but I’m not sure how she’d react. I mean, I have been lying to her. If I finally tell her the truth, I may lose her, but if I don’t tell her, I may still lose her. I’m just not exactly sure what to do.”
Jonathan sat quietly for a few moments, his mind trying to process everything that his son had just said. For several weeks, he had been waiting for this subject to be brought up, hoping beyond hoping that Martha would be the one to discuss it with their son. He took a deep breath.
“I can’t answer that for you, son. This is one decision that you are really going to have to make for yourself. I can’t make it for you. I can only suggest that you take your time to fully think this over and make sure that this is the right thing to do.”
“But how could it be the wrong decision, Pa?”
“Again, I don’t know, son. All I do know is that you’ve got to try and think this through before you–” Jonathan was suddenly stopped short by the blinking of the lamp across the room — the special lamp that Clark had built that would flash on and off when there was an emergency that required the special assistance of Superboy. As Superboy, Clark had given remote controls that would activate this lamp’s blinking alert function to only three people — the President of the United States, Professor Lewis Lang, and Smallville Police Chief Douglas Parker. Obviously, one of those three was trying to contact Superboy.
Jonathan pointed to the lamp. “You’re needed, son.”
As Jonathan was pointing to the lamp, Clark was already on his feet putting the rest of his costume on in a blur of super-speeded motion. Next, Clark’s eyes began to focus intently, using a combination of x-ray and telescopic visions as he looked in three directions. “It’s Police Chief Parker, Pa. He needs me over at the Smallville Savings and Loan.”
“Well, then, go on, son. You’re needed. We can finish this later.”
Again moving at super-speed, Superboy went down into the Kent basement and out through the secret tunnel beneath the house that concealed his entrances and exits from the Kent home. The tunnel let out in the woods outside of town, and upon exiting through the secret opening under the rocks in the woods, Superboy was zooming back up into the sky and toward town. His arms outstretched in front of him, his cape billowing in the wind behind him, the Boy of Steel was a young man on a mission.
“Chief Parker needs me,” he said to himself. “Everything else can wait.”
Outside the Smallville Savings and Loan building, Oak Street, Smallville, 11:06 P.M.:
Police Chief Douglas Parker stood under a street lamp outside the Smallville Savings and Loan building, pacing back and forth. This was not how he wanted to spend his Saturday evening, standing outside, directing his men, and managing a crime scene. Not thirty minutes ago, he had been relaxing at home in his easy chair watching the Late Show on Channel 9, which was airing The Day the Earth Stood Still. Then the office called, as it frequently did when he was fully settled in at home, and he had to come down and oversee the investigation. Parker glanced down at his watch. A little after eleven, he thought. Where is that kid?
Superboy and the chief had done this dance so many times before that it had become something of a routine for the white-haired man in his fifties. Parker, like he normally did on his way down to any crime scene, had stopped in at the office, which was also located on Oak Street, and grabbed that special signal device the Boy of Steel had given him a few years ago. “Just press this blue button,” Superboy had said, “and I will come when needed.” And every time that he’d had need of the teenager’s help on a case, he had pressed the blue button, and Superboy had come running, or flying in Superboy’s case. So the chief was not actually worried that the Boy of Steel might not show up; he just didn’t like waiting around. Glancing down at his watch again, he grimaced, noting that it had only been a minute since he last checked the time.
“A watched pot never boils, Chief,” came a youthfully exuberant voice from above the policeman. Parker looked up, smiling, as he sighed in relief. It was Superboy at last.
“Superboy, it’s good to see you. I hope that I didn’t take you away from anything truly important, but we’ve got, shall we say, an interesting one here, and I could really use your help.”
“Nah, Chief. It wasn’t anything that important. I was just watching The Day the Earth Stood Still on Channel 9’s Late Show. What’s going on?”
The older man chuckled, realizing that both he and the boy had been doing the exact same thing before coming here. “Well,” Parker began, “we had a break-in at the Savings and Loan.”
“Well, considering that we are meeting outside the Savings and Loan, I kind of surmised that. Seems like the S and L has been having a run of fairly bad luck of late.”
Parker nodded in agreement, as he had been thinking the exact same thing. A few months back, a Smallville High student named Johnny Webber had, after somehow gaining incredible superhuman mental powers, adopted a masked identity as the criminal Dyna-Mind, and one of the first places he had attacked was the Savings and Loan. Naturally, of course, Superboy was able to apprehend the juvenile delinquent and return everything that had been stolen. (*) “Indeed, Superboy, but that’s not the strange part about what happened this evening.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “A Blast of Dyna-Mind,” The New Adventures of Superboy #42 (June, 1983) and “The Forty-Hour Wonder,” The New Adventures of Superboy #43 (July, 1983).]
“Oh,” asked the Boy of Steel, a quizzical look on his face, “what’s the strange part?”
“Well,” began Parker, “our thief was none other than Jim Jeffries. You remember Jim Jeffries, don’t you?”
“Oh, indeed I do, Chief. He was a member of Vic Munster’s gang during both Rainbow Raider cases. I brought him in both times. I can’t believe he’d actually try and commit a crime here in Smallville… again.”
“I had thought the same thing, but here he is, caught red-handed.”
“Interesting, Chief. Very interesting.”
Parker removed his policeman’s hat and ran his hand through his white hair. “You said it, Superboy. Jeffries was working alone, and just after he had looted the vault, he himself had been robbed by an individual he described as a ‘dead ringer for that damned flying kid,’ which was obviously a reference to you. Jeffries said that this ‘dead ringer’ called himself Ultraboy and was making odd statements about me being a crime boss and that anyone who wanted to commit a crime in Smallville had to cut him and ‘Boss’ Parker in for twenty percent of the take. After that, this Ultraboy tossed Jeffries into the vault’s outer wall, breaking his left arm and right leg.”
Superboy frowned, wincing. “You don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you, Chief?”
“Superboy, if I had thought anything of that nature, I’d have a chunk of green K in my hands, and you’d have the handcuffs on you. No, but it did remind me of something that happened a while back involving another version of you.”
Superboy knew full well what Chief Parker was referring to. About three years ago, just after the first time they had apprehended the Munster gang, a Superboy from an alternate Earth had showed up in Smallville. This other Superboy, who wore a chest symbol with a reversed color scheme, had been exposed to red kryptonite in his native reality by his own equivalent of the Superboy Revenge Squad. When he arrived in this reality after being caught in a tremendous explosion in space, the red kryptonite had affected his mind to force him to destroy a good friend’s reputation, which he did to Chief Parker by playing several severe pranks on him to get him to resign in disgrace as police chief. Thanks in part to the timely intervention of the real Superboy and Krypto the Superdog, this other Superboy came to his senses and returned to his home reality. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Ordeal of Chief Parker,” Superboy #116 (October, 1964).]
“Well, Chief,” Superboy said after a long moment, smiling, “let’s just hope that this alternate me isn’t trying to get you fired.”
Parker chuckled. He and Superboy had had so many adventures over the past few years, and it was always good to break the tension while investigating a new one by reminiscing. “Jeffries is down at the hospital getting patched up. I had the boys take him there just after we found him. It might be a good idea for you to go talk to him and get an idea of just who and what we’re dealing with.”
“Way ahead of you, Chief,” Superboy said as he began floating up into the sky. “I’ll let you know what I find out.” Superboy saluted Parker as he flew off down the street to the Smallville Hospital.
The whole trip to the hospital down Oak Street, which at his top flight speed would take Superboy less than twelve seconds, he was attempting to process what had happened this evening. An ersatz Superboy who called himself Ultraboy, his utter disregard for the welfare and well-being of another human being as he had demonstrated with his tossing Jim Jeffries against a wall like he was a crumpled up piece of paper — all of these events were very distressing. At first, when he heard Chief Parker refer to the criminal as Ultraboy, Superboy thought that it might be his old Legion of Super-Heroes friend and ally Jo Nah, alias Ultra Boy in disguise, trying to play a prank of some kind, but once he heard the chief mention that the crook broke Jim’s arm and leg, that threw that idea straight out the window.
As Superboy neared the front of Smallville Hospital, with the bright, shining lights of the parking lot and the emergency room entrance looming in front of him, he was struck from behind by the force of something, or rather, someone colliding with him. Haven’t felt something hit me that hard, he thought as he began plummeting to the ground, since I built that android Kator to test my abilities a while back. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “To Fight the Unbeatable Foe,” The New Adventures of Superboy #17 (May, 1981).]
As Superboy and his assailant crashed into the cold, hard concrete of the hospital parking lot, Superboy felt weak, almost as though he were exposed to green kryptonite, but surely that was impossible. If his attacker was a counterpart of his from some alternate reality, shouldn’t he, too, be weakened? And yet it felt as though this other radiated green kryptonite like body heat. Something odd was definitely going on.
As Superboy pulled himself out of the crater that his impact had created, the dust began to clear, and he saw dozens of curious Smallville citizens rushing from the hospital to see what was going on. Standing up straight, he wiped the dirt from his face and waved them off; the last thing he needed was innocent civilians being hurt in the midst of a battle royale between him and someone who was allegedly his equal. From behind, Superboy could hear youthful, sinister laughter.
Superboy turned to face his attacker and came face to face with a young man with his own face. His costume was similar, but different from Superboy’s own — more sinister, more, for lack of a better term, evil. He had an arrogant, sadistic sneer on his face, and he stood with an overtly self-important posture. As the Boy of Steel stared at his sinister double, all he could think of was that old Agatha Christie novel title, The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side.
“Ultraboy, I presume.”
“And you must be Superboy. Let’s rumble, pork chop.”